'The Era of Democracy', 1854 .....
These ardent souls were longing for a light that never was, on sea or land, for an ideal happiness which was to be obtained through constitutional reforms, though unobtainable unless man should be of a sudden renovated, his animal nature transformed, his weakness and his passions, his meanness and his follies, all deleted from his character. They found no Utopia, such as they had dreamed of, but they saw in a few short years a very great movement in the direction of their fervent hopes.p.357. See note 2.
...in regard to other matters of popular clamour, all were won before a very few years had passed away. Manhood suffrage, the Ballot, abolition of property qualification for Members of Parliament, the equality of electoral districts, short Parliaments, the eight hours system of labour, and other ideals of the Chartist Party at home, had been secured.p.358.
At a meeting at Bakery Hill, Ballarat, at which some ten thousand men were said to have been present, resolutions were carried 'that it was the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called upon to obey.' p.364.
At the next meeting the flag now known as the Eureka flag was hoisted. It was evident that '...the want of all political rights and recognised status was naturally felt as a grievance by a body of men who were unusually intelligent and active.'
At the trial of the men captured at Eureka 'not guilty' verdicts were given by juries backed by a sympathetic public. It should be realised that the bulk of the public had no vote; the population had doubled within the last ten years and few had the necessary land qualification to enable them to vote.
In the midst of the political activity which occurred in this period:
...there was one concession earnestly longed for...the system of voting at elections by secret ballot. All democratic ideals included this provision. In no other way could the workman be secure from molestation if he voted in opposition to his employer's wishes; in no other way could the shop-keeper feel himself clear of the constraining influence of his wealthier customers; in no other way could the tenant feel certain that he would not draw down on his head the wrath of his landlord, whose intimate friend or political hero, he might wish to vote against.
...again and again it had been debated in monster meetings, but the government refused to include it in the new Bill; partly because their sympathies were opposed to democracy, and partly because the practice of voting by secret ballot was not yet adopted by any other country, (!)and they thought that for a small community in an outlying corner of the world to try any risky experiment would be unwise and possibly result in the disgrace of those who brought so radical a measure into legal operation within the staid and respectable confines of the British Empire.
But the people of Victoria were self-reliant and ardent. Little did they care what other people had done or were doing: the ballot, not the open one of the United States, but a ballot profoundly secret was absolutely necessary if the electors were to be free to give their unbiased voices.
At the second reading of the Electoral Bill on 18th December 1855 Legislative Councillor William Nicholson moved that "in the opinion of this House, any new Electoral Act should provide for electors recording their votes by secret ballot".p.378.
The Ballot Act was passed eventually on 29th March 1856 and an election soon followed.
Never was an election period known to pass so quietly; on all hands the new Act was declared to have worked most admirably, and yet in no community could there have been more cause for agitation and disorder. Not one question but a whole crop of them were before the electors, and all of a kind to deeply touch the feelings of the multitude.p.379.
Adult male suffrage was soon introduced and parliamentary terms reduced from 5 to 3 years.
Terrible results were prophesied by those whose views were cautious and distrustful of the new theories. These fears have proved unfounded, and the process of legislation and of government has been as orderly in Victoria then as before and not less orderly than in the most favoured of civilised communities.p.380.
The people took a lively interest in public affairs. They wished a voice in the management of the State. They were resolved to have it. ... For five or six years mass meetings were frequent.p.381.
Mistakes have been made; failings have appeared; but none of those gigantic evils have occurred which were foretold by many visitors and by the English reviews and newspapers which feared the dominance of the masses. On the contrary, Victoria has, in the main, reaped only blessings from its era of democracy.p.386.